By Melanie Wong
Snelling has always been one of those races on my “hit list” - a classic NorCal course with power climbs, windy false flats and a kicker uphill finish. I’ve been lucky enough to be within the top spots for the past couple years, so I knew the course favored my punchy riding style. However, unlike past years, I didn’t really want to go into the race with an overly formal plan. Chatting casually in the parking with Amy, we had pretty general goals: be active, race hard, conserve when appropriate and be ready to set-up the sprint if it came down to it.
This year the small women’s field had two dominant teams (5 from JL Velo and 4 from Cyclesport Specialized) along with two strong unattached riders. On lap one Sarabeth Liebert (Cyclesport Specialized), rolled away from the field while JL was tempoing at the front. Since it was so early in the race, I wasn’t overly concerned with this escapee, but as the gap widened with no response from JL Velo I became more and more nervous. The Snelling course has many turns in it. Once a rider gets “out of sight, out of mind” it can be hard to bring them back. Halfway through lap 2, with Sarabeth 1 minute up the road, I started to put in small attacks to elevate the pace. Amy countered my attacks and Megan Ruble (Cyclesport Specialized) did the same to try and break away from the field. Bit by bit we pulled back Sarabeth and by the start of lap 3, the group was together, minus 3 JL Velo riders who were dropped.
With the first signs of strain starting to show in the field, Amy threw down laps 3 and 4. When she wasn’t sharing the pacemaking with the Cyclesport Specialized riders, she was attacking the roller hills. All her hard work meant that I could sit in, recover and conserve as much energy as possible. I only countered or attacked when the composition of riders or the terrain made it particularly beneficial. By the end of lap 4 we had dropped two more riders from Cyclesport Specialized, and the remaining members of the field were preparing for the sprint.
Heading into the final, long “L” stretch stretch before the finish, riders were jockeying for position. We knew I needed to be top 4 going into the final right hand turn, so Amy worked with Megan to keep the pace up, while I sat snugly 3rd wheel. In the final 200m before the turn, Eleanor Velez (Unattached) emerged from the left side of the group to pass Amy and be the first into the turn, taking the outside line. I jumped with her and used the inside line to my advantage to bridge up to her quickly. As I approached her rear wheel, I kicked hard and attacked through her then sprinted the rest of the way to the line.
I can’t say thanks enough to Amy for her incredible amounts of work - it was truly a team effort that out-manned and out-gunned we were still able to pull off the win and finish with sweaty faces, sore muscles, and big smiles.